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§ Bv COUNCILLOR F. LAWSON DODD, of Tunbridge Wells.
I.--Should Municipalities Make Profits ? ‘ Q
l 1N the provision of houses by local authorities the question may
, arise whether schemes should so be worked as to ensure a monetary
il profit for the ratepayers. Those who have had practical experience ,
A of the problem as lt at present stands will feel little anxiety on this t
li point for the conditions under which all public authorities must act
ë, are so exacting that it may be counted a success if, after much
ä ·scheming, the accounts are just made to balance. But in considering
this side of the question from the Socialist standpoint, the important
facts to be borne in mind are these :- ,
(1) That the work is primarily undertaken in the interest i
of the public health, and that the lowered death and sickness 4
l rates will be in themselves a great financial gain to the j
community. (
_ (2) That the aims of the local authority are in no way
( _ similar to those of the private and speculative builder. The
latter, not having to bear the burden which the injury produced
by a badly constructed dwelling means to the inmates, and
seeing that those conditions (such as overcrowding, unrepaired "
dilapidations, etc.), which are most detrimental to his tenants,
are. to his own financial advantage, is, so to speak, bribed into
maintaining things as they are. He reaps all the profit, and
f the community bears all the burden. ‘
i (3) The local authority, on the other hand, finds that those ` "
5 conditions which produce high interest on house­capital also
produce a high mortality among the citizens ; a high Poor Rate,
' due largely to loss of work, the result of lowered vitality and _
inability to pay the high rent ; a high General Rate (caused by ;
the necessarily large isolation hospital, extra sanitary inspection,
disinfection of houses etc. etc. · and can realize there is an E
' 1 1-1’ ’d`cf`lbth ‘ fh ‘
actua monetary pro t reape in irecty y esavmg o t ose g
i expenses which, under private enterprize, must be paid on
Q other accounts. But the awakening is slow. In the Parish of T;
2 Mitcham, in 1897, an outbreak of scarlet fever occurred, the i
Er , rapid spread of which was attributed by the medical officer, in
( ` his Annual Report, to " the overcrowding of the population
( which now exists " ;* yet this small community had, without a
g murmur, spent { 2,000 on an isolation hospital, and had closed
l all its schools for one month, while the suggestion of the only
, true rernedy, viz., the provision of more houses by the District s,
, Council, was met by the cry "an extra burden on the rates"!
But, dull as the perception of the average ratepayer is, it may
l . .
) * Annual Report of Medical Officer of Croydon Rural District for 1897.
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